Stop spreading hate or face the risk of slipping into a new Civil War

China Plus Published: 2018-10-31 22:24:29
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By Lv Xiaohong

A year ago, when I was preparing to leave the United States upon completing my overseas assignment, I struck up a casual conversation with the UPS truck driver who came to my apartment to pick up my luggage. Among other things, we discussed the violent clashes between white supremacists and protesters that Summer, that resulted in someone’s death in Charlottesville, Virginia. He warned me, this country is going to plunge into another civil war. 

The events of the past week have, in a way, been an endorsement of his statement. 

FBI agents continue to work at the Tree of Life synagogue after a mass shooting in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA, 27 October 2018. [Photo: IC]

FBI agents continue to work at the Tree of Life synagogue after a mass shooting in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA, 27 October 2018. [Photo: IC]

A series of pipe bombs were sent to an array of prominent people including former Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, as well as a couple of their cabinet members, a congresswoman and some famous figures in the entertainment industry, and the CNN newsroom. 

Meanwhile, a 51-year-old white man killed two black people at a Kroger grocery store in Jeffersontown, Kentucky. He had first tried to enter a mainly black church and failed, before turning his attention on the nearby grocery store. The cold-blooded attack was reminiscent of a mass shooting in 2015 when a young white supremacist murdered nine African Americans during a prayer service at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston, South Carolina. 

And then came the massacre at the Jewish Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania that killed 11 people and injured 6 others including 4 police officers. The gunman claimed that he wanted to kill all Jews. 

The common motivation behind such acts of terror or violence is hatred against political rivals, against different races, and against different religions, turning the United States from the Land of the Brave to the Land of the Deranged, in the words of USA Today. The paper also warned that “Far more dangerous terrorism is already here ------ homegrown haters who speak with weapons and seek to kill”.

This image obtained Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2018, and provided by ABC News shows a package addressed to former CIA head John Brennan and an explosive device that was sent to CNN's New York office.[Photo: AP]

This image obtained Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2018, and provided by ABC News shows a package addressed to former CIA head John Brennan and an explosive device that was sent to CNN's New York office.[Photo: AP]

But what has pushed the country towards the brink of another civil war?  

President Donald Trump has repeatedly blamed the media, tweeting “There is great anger in our Country caused in part by inaccurate, and even fraudulent, reporting of the news”.

But the media weren’t buying it. Both U.S. and international news outlets prefer to blame the irresponsible rhetoric of some political figures for fanning the flames of hatred. Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters encouraged supporters to harass Trump’s cabinet members. Republican congressman Greg Gianforte body-slammed a reporter on the eve of his election last year. And President Obama’s Attorney General Eric Holder adapted Michelle Obama’s rallying cry “when they go low, we go high,” to become “when they go low, we kick them”. President Trump himself has been constantly blamed for his critical rhetoric towards political rivals. 

They have also thrown the spotlight on popular social media platforms where hate still abounds and is amplified. A CNN report pointed out that “After virtually every mass shooting, every high-profile hate crime over the past decade, the story played out much the same: All the warning signs were there for all to see on social media”. The American news website Axios also noted that “Advocates of free speech online long argued that it's good to keep extremists' activities out in the open, and sunlight is the best disinfectant. But too often social networks have turned out to be toxic environments where the fumes blot out the light instead”.

Perhaps the U.S. should look to the example of European countries, many of which have promulgated laws to tackle illegal posts such as hate speech and fake news on social media platforms. Otherwise, the country indeed risks slipping into a new civil war, as my UPS truck driver warned a year ago.  

(The writer is a producer of China Plus and a former chief correspondent of the Washington Bureau of China Radio International. The article reflects the author’s own views.)

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LU Xiankun Professor LU Xiankun is Managing Director of LEDECO Geneva and Associate Partner of IDEAS Centre Geneva. He is Emeritus Professor of China Institute for WTO Studies of the University of International Business and Economics (UIBE) and Wuhan University (WHU) of China and visiting professor or senior research fellow of some other universities and think tanks in China and Europe. He also sits in management of some international business associations and companies, including as Senior Vice President of Shenzhen UEB Technology LTD., a leading e-commerce company of China. Previously, Mr. LU was senior official of Chinese Ministry of Commerce and senior diplomat posted in Europe, including in Geneva as Counsellor and Head of Division of the Permanent Mission of China to the WTO and in Brussels as Commercial Secretary of the Permanent Mission of China to the EU. Benjamin Cavender Benjamin Cavender is a Shanghai based consultant with more than 11 years of experience helping companies understand consumer behavior and develop go to market strategies for China. He is a frequent speaker on economic and consumer trends in China and is often featured on CNBC, Bloomberg, and Channel News Asia. Sara Hsu Sara Hsu is an associate professor from the State University of New York at New Paltz. She is a regular commentator on Chinese economy. Xu Qinduo Xu Qinduo is CRI's former chief correspondent to Washington DC, the United States. He works as the producer, host and commentator for TODAY, a flagship talk show on current affairs. Mr. Xu contributes regularly to English-language newspapers including Shenzhen Daily and Global Times as well as Chinese-language radio and TV services. Lin Shaowen A radio person, Mr. Lin Shaowen is strongly interested in international relations and Chinese politics. As China is quite often misunderstood in the rest of the world, he feels the need to better present the true picture of the country, the policies and meanings. So he talks a lot and is often seen debating. Then friends find a critical Lin Shaowen criticizing and criticized. George N. Tzogopoulos Dr George N. Tzogopoulos is an expert in media and politics/international relations as well as Chinese affairs. He is Senior Research Fellow at the Centre International de Européenne (CIFE) and Visiting Lecturer at the European Institute affiliated with it and is teaching international relations at the Department of Law of the Democritus University of Thrace. George is the author of two books: US Foreign Policy in the European Media: Framing the Rise and Fall of Neoconservatism (IB TAURIS) and The Greek Crisis in the Media: Stereotyping in the International Press (Ashgate) as well as the founder of, an institutional partner of CRI Greek. David Morris David Morris is the Pacific Islands Trade and Investment Commissioner in China, a former Australian diplomat and senior political adviser. Harvey Dzodin After a distinguished career in the US government and American media Dr. Harvey Dzodin is now a Beijing-based freelance columnist for several media outlets. While living in Beijing, he has published over 200 columns with an emphasis on arts, culture and the Belt & Road initiative. He is also a sought-after speaker and advisor in China and abroad. He currently serves as Nonresident Research Fellow of the think tank Center for China and Globalization and Senior Advisor of Tsinghua University National Image Research Center specializing in city branding. Dr. Dzodin was a political appointee of President Jimmy Carter and served as lawyer to a presidential commission. Upon the nomination of the White House and the US State Department he served at the United Nations Office in Vienna, Austria. He was Director and Vice President of the ABC Television in New York for more than two decades.